As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Wherein the biggest media insider in California flips out on me

(a good bit of this is in the previous post, but I had to get the whole thing in one place)

Bill Bradley has been one of the main political journalists covering state politics in Sacramento for years. He writes for the LA Weekly and at his site New West Notes, which used to be a top secret newsletter for political insiders. Indeed everything about him screams insider, and most of the time he's the one doing the screaming. Bradley touts himself as a longtime Democratic operative, a moderate who crossed over to vote for John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary (um, wasn't that held a couple months after McCain dropped out?), the first reporter to get it right on the outcome of the 2003 California recall, etc., etc., etc. In the world of Bradley, Bradley is king.

What he is not is forgiving of even a shred of criticism. As you will soon find out.

I went over to New West Notes on Thursday, as Bradley is typically a decent source for information about California politics. When he plays it down the middle, he gives you the story as soon as it comes down the line. The problem is that his creeping bias has been particularly evident in this year's gubenatorial race. His close relationship to Arnold Schwarzenegger is unquestioned; many of his past articles feature close contact with the governor. The frequency with which personal phone calls and insider sessions are bandied about, you'd think he was Arnold's Judy Miller. And there definitely seems to be some personal animus between Bradley and Democratic nominee Phil Angelides. I don't consider Bradley a partisan Democrat or Republican, but he certainly gives big wet kisses in print to his political friends, and savages his political enemies, no matter the party. Look no further than these back-to-back posts on his website. The first is a nice fellation of Arnold and Tony Blair's agreement to work together on environmental cap-and-trade issues.

With sizable advantages in public opinion polls and fundraising for his re-election bid, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a high-profile pact between California and the United Kingdom to jointly pursue anti-global warming strategies. While the accord may be less than it seems, it does achieve the mutual goal of two high-profile figures on the global stage: Distance from George W. Bush. And it, along with a developing attack on Democratic challenger Phil Angelides’ developer background, makes plain Schwarzenegger’s plan to drive environmentalism as a key to his political career.

This really isn't all that bad, but does leave out some significant points. First, the accord that is "less than it seems" is entirely VOLUNTARY on the part of the polluters. A reporter might mention that. Second, there's the fact that Big Oil has contributed at least a couple million to Arnold's coffers, and that this photo-op was little more than that, and that the "plan to drive environmentalism" is kind of a craven way to go hunting for votes and play both sides of the issue (as all skillful politicians do, of course, but a little transparency in the reporting would be nice).

Now, take a look at how Bradley frames the just-as-big press event where Phil Angelides endorsed the California Clean Money initiative, which is kind of improbable for a mainstream politician to do:

Angelides' event today, in which he endorsed the Proposition 89 Clean Money initiative at the sponsoring California Nurses Association offices in Oakland, quickly morphed into an anti-Schwarzenegger rally. The two most public backers of Prop 89 to date, the California Nurses Association (which dogged Schwarzenegger throughout the special election last year) and the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights -- which began funding the web site as soon as Schwarzenegger was elected -- did not criticize Angelides for his own campaign finance controversies during the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

He then went on to print his running count of how many days its been since Angelides announced he has an "exact plan" for a tax policy to fund California.

Now, we all know that Angelides used independent expenditures up the yin-yang to get the nomination. But he's been pretty consistent in supporting campaign finance reform in the past, including the Clean Money Act that got as far as the State Senate this year. Those who would criticize him about that would have him fight with one hand tied behind his back. The electoral playing field in California today is extremely broken, and Angelides has to do what he has to do to get elected. Arnold Schwarzenegger has accepted upwards of $90 million in campaign contributions. Is Angelides supposed to unilaterally disarm for the sake of comity? I welcome him coming aboard to the Prop. 89 campaign.

But Bradley, now, he obviously sees it as a crass attempt to get votes (The Proposition isn't all that popular or even known right now, so I don't know how that works). He DOESN'T see a high-profile meeting with the Prime Minister of England as a crass attempt to get votes though, just the fulfillment of a long and responsible agenda from his political buddy.

So I'd had enough. I decided to post a comment. Here it was:

It’s so very interesting that in the opinion of the LA Weekly's Bill Bradley, Angelides’ move to endorse Prop. 89 is a craven play for votes from someone with dirty hands on the matter, yet three posts below, Schwarzenegger’s “deal” on finding global warming solutions with Britain, which is purely voluntary and opposed by such groups as Environment California, is somehow NOT a craven play for votes from someone with millions in contributions from Big Oil.

I know I’m not one of the Sacramento Kool Kidz and I don’t get press releases from campaigns and crap, but the logic of that set of statements escapes me. Maybe I should get some more inside sessions with operatives, that’d help with the edification. Or I could call Arnold myself. I could get the number from Bill.

Aggressive, yes, but substantive to the matter at hand, I'd say.

Within minutes, yes, minutes, I got a email in my Inbox:

Pretty sure you were already banned, sport.

Don't enjoy wasting any more of my time with nonsense.

I've posted at New West Notes either 0 or 1 times before in my life. But apparently, challenging the statements of the writer is too much for this newspaper man. Too much two-way communication, I guess.

My reply:

I don't read your site enough to know of my not being wanted.

Incidentally, I suggest sweaters to help keep that thin skin from any damage.

have a smurfy day!

p.s. I do enjoy wasting your time.

I figured that was it, but I was a little amused that one comment could lead to an immediate banning.

Well, the guy keeps emailing me. First I get one with the scintillating comment:

Sent via BlackBerry from EarthLink Wireless.

Which the dude obviously can't work, since he sent a blank email in reply to my last note. I tweaked him:

Don't tell me I missed more wit and wisdom by the
errant press of a button! Please re-thumb.

To which he responded:


And, much later, after he got home since it wasn't from the Blackberry, and after I had forgotten the whole thing:

You don't think you deserve attention, do you?

Now, let's recap. I wrote a comment on a public blog. I get banned within a couple minutes, get personal emails sent to me, and they continue far beyond the point where it should have ended. And in the ultimate instance of projection, this one says "you don't deserve attention."

So I let him have it:

'scuse me, am I the one continuing this sorry email exchange long past its due?

Since I obviously have your attention, let me give you some advice, reader to writer. If you think legitimate criticism and a questioning of motivations warrants banning from your self-congratulatory website, you're a bit further gone than I expected.

I'm not sure when it stopped being about reporting facts to you, and started being about proving how much more inside you are than anyone else in Sacramento, but rest assured it comes off in, shall we say, a masturbatory manner. You obviously see anything from your politician friends in a positive light and your politician enemies (who've slighted you in I've no idea what way) in a negative one, and the slip is REALLY showing in this governor's race. I think Angelides has run a pathetic campaign myself, but you seem to be coming at it from a personal animus that is as transparent as it is shallow. If you're writing for 40 political operatives and muckety-mucks, fine, close it up and make it a newsletter again. But don't put it up for public view and then expect not to be criticized for the obvious biases you display.

Pretty sure I wrote an opinion as millions of bloggers do on other sites every day, and then got banned and harangued with a series of emails. If you can't take it, find another line of work. If you're a reporter, be a reporter and play it down the middle. If you're a columnist with a partisan slant, be up front about it. But for God's sake don't get the vapors every time one of your readers (who I believe indirectly pay for your house) sees through your BS.

If you write back, you won't think you deserve a reply, will you?

good times.

Well that felt good. But it continues with a reply:

You are clearly a pathetic troll.

Stop wasting your time.

Um, about the word "troll," I do not think it means what you think it means. A troll hijacks, a troll is inflammatory, a troll makes repetitive messages over and over again. Now, Bradley does this all the time; in the comments of his own site, on Calitics, and even right here on DailyKos, where in a flurry of activity late last month he heckled anyone who dared mention the Rasmussen poll showing Angelides with a slight lead, then came out with this stemwinder:

Phil Angelides can't carry John Kerry's jock strap.

I've known them both for years.

Angelides is in deep guano.

Policywise, he still has not spelled out the centerpiece of his campaign, the tax hikes, 16 weeks after claiming he has an "exact" tax plan.

His energy plan is that he will tell us his energy plan within 100 days of being sworn in.

This is sophisticated behavior for a high schooler, but that is about all we can say.

BTW, when you rip John Kerry from the safety of your little computer screen, know that he is one of the most highly decorated vets of the Vietnam War. And that I am a vet, too, and have done far more in politics than you might dream of as a third generation Californian.

Which is to say, don't embarrass yourself further with ignorant comments.

Which again (1) proves my point about him having some personal thing against Angelides, and (2) proves that he only cares about giving his resume and showing the world how inside he is.

Now, back to our story:

So after being called "a pathetic troll," I write back:

Just a reader, man, and trying to be straight with you.

Return serve:


Did I mention that at this point it's 12:30 in the morning? I was up doing a work assignment, I don't know his excuse. But I decide to try and duck out of this thing.

perfectly willing to be done with this. You must be
one of those "must get the last word" guys.

And two minutes later:

I have your ISP address.

I don't know what's funnier, that he thinks I'm going to be frightened out of my wits because he has deep secret personal information of mine, or that he thinks it's called an "ISP address."

I went to bed at that point, and in the morning I decided to volley:

This how you treat everyone who "doesn't deserve attention"?

P.S. It's called an IP address. Yours ain't hard to find either.

And a minute goes by...

Yours is on my screen automatically when you post on my site. Your behavior is stalkerish. Your correspondence is ended.

Right. My behavior is stalkerish. My behavior, incidentally, consisted of writing a comment on a public blog, and replying to a bunch of emails, one of which said "I have your ISP address" like I was supposed to hide under my couch or something.

At this point I didn't bother and let it go. But I think there's a teachable moment to be gleaned here. The traditional media is so very unused to two-way communication, that even when they put up their own blogs, they can't imagine they'll generate any criticism, and if they do, it's freak-out time. Yet they think it's perfectly fine to show personal bias in their reporting, to let conventional wisdom and happy talk from political operatives color their mindset, and to lash out in this way when challenged. This must be why the Deborah Howells and the Jim Bradys of the world call the blogosphere so "mean" and "hurtful", as they never expected anyone would dare scale the iron fortress they've built around themselves.

UPDATE: So I cross-posted this over at Kos, and Bill Bradley himself showed up! I can't do it justice, ya gotta go over there and look at it. High-larious.